Size matters, especially in the NHL.
Especially when a young player lines up on defense and his job is to stop opposing forwards from crashing the net, digging the puck out of the corners and creating offensive plays.
If you don't think so, look at the Boston Bruins, who put huge men like Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid on the blue line. Dennis Seidenberg is not oversized at 6'1" and 210 pounds, but he is strong, powerful and athletic—and big enough.
Then there's Torey Krug. This rookie defenseman is 5'9", 180 pounds, and compared to the foursome above and second-year defenseman Dougie Hamilton (6'5", 199 pounds), Krug looks Lilliputian in the land of the giants.
That's the negative when it comes to Krug. He doesn't pass the eye test with flying colors. But get past those prejudices and easy judgements, and you have one of the most important players on one of the best teams in the league.
Even though Krug is short, he can more than carry his own weight with the Bruins.
He is a brilliant skater who can carry the puck up the ice with speed and purpose. This makes him especially important on the power play. Krug can direct the Bruins' play with the man advantage, and that means Chara isn't compelled to take on that role.
When Chara doesn't have to carry the puck on the power play, he can take a position in front of the net and set perhaps the best screens in the NHL.
Krug can stick-handle, pass and shoot when he gets in the offensive zone. He has given life to a power play that had been a drag on the team. The Bruins rank 14th on the power play this year after finishing 26th in that category in 2012-13.
Krug announced his presence with a bang when he scored four goals in five games against Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers in the conference semifinal playoff series last May.
His performance in the postseason was stunning, but Krug was still just a rookie when he came to training camp this year. He had to prove himself all over again to make the team.
He did just that, and he has been a regular throughout the season. He has been partnered mostly with McQuaid (currently out with a lower-body injury), and they have performed well together.
And Krug has enjoyed playing with McQuaid. "He's always in the right spot, he moves the puck well too so we're a pairing that's built on confidence," Krug told Amanda Bruno of MassLive.com. "We make a few plays early, we get our confidence moving, and the rest of the game we seem to be pretty good. We enjoy playing together."
|Torey Krug: By the numbers|
|Goals||Points||Power-play goals||Shooting percentage||Plus/minus|
|Rank among rookie defensemen||1st||1st||1st||1st*||T-4th|
|Rank among all defensemen||T-1st||T-10th||T-1st||5th*||T-37th|
|*at least 10 shots on goal|
While the season has not yet reached the quarter pole, Krug appears to be making a run at the Calder Trophy, which goes to the NHL's best rookie. He may be the best of a very strong class of rookie defensemen that includes Nashville's Seth Jones, Anaheim's Hampus Lindholm, Detroit's Danny DeKeyser, Tampa Bay's Radko Gudas and Toronto's Morgan Rielly.
Krug leads all rookie defensemen in goal scoring (six), points (11), power-play goals (three) and shooting percentage (13.3).
Krug also has a plus-four rating, fourth best among rookie defensemen. That number helps debunk the myth that Krug is a liability on defense because he is short.
Krug plays a physical game, and he will also block shots (19). He takes the proper position and angle to the puck and understands defense. He has registered five takeaways this season, which is tied for seventh among rookie blueliners.
If he has one problem, it's that he may jump into the offensive zone a bit too much. Bruins head coach Claude Julien understands this can happen with a player who has been so productive in the offensive end.
"It's about confidence—he's got lots of it right now," Bruins coach Claude Julien told MassLive.com. "He's got the experience he seems to have the knack for jumping into the holes at the right times. And that's not to say that there's times where he might be a little too aggressive there and we're trying to make sure he picks the right spots."
Krug's goal scoring in last year's playoffs opened some eyes and got him some hype.
But he's much more than a flash in the pan. He's on the way to becoming an impact player who has helped the Bruins improve one of their few weak spots.
That has endeared him to the fans and has put him on a path to becoming a potential star in the NHL.
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